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Criminal Justice

Video Shows CHP Officers Restrain Man Who Died After Screaming ‘I Can’t Breathe’

Edward Bronstein poses with one of his daughters. Bronstein has a mustache and smiles at the camera. He wears a blue baseball cap.
Edward Bronstein with one of his daughters.
(Courtesy Bronstein's family )
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The family of a man who died after being detained by California Highway Patrol officers released a video Tuesday that its lawyers say showed several officers killed the man while trying to take a blood sample.

On March 31, 2020, CHP officers took 38-year-old Edward Bronstein to their Altadena station after detaining him on suspicion of driving under the influence, according to Bronstein family attorneys Luis and Michael Carrillo. They said the judge hearing the family’s wrongful death lawsuit recently ordered the video be released Tuesday.

In the video, officers lead a handcuffed Bronstein into what the lawyers say was the station’s maintenance garage. An officer is heard telling him they have a court order to obtain a blood sample, and asks him to consent, which he is reluctant to do. Seated on his knees, Bronstein keeps asking why he has to go through the procedure.

One officer says, “this is your last opportunity. Otherwise you’re going face down on the mat and we’re gonna keep on going.” A few seconds later they start to force Bronstein face down on the mat, at which point he starts repeating, “I’ll do it willingly.” An officer is heard saying, “It’s too late.”

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'He Still Needs Rescue, Bro'

As five officers pin him to the ground, Bronstein begins screaming as they work to take blood from his arm.

Bronstein screams “I can’t breathe” at least eight times as officers continue to forcibly restrain him. He can also be heard calling for help. After roughly two minutes, Bronstein goes silent, and what appears to be a medical staffer checks his pulse and injects him with something. The staffer and the officers spend several minutes watching Bronstein, at times calling out to him and gently slapping his face.

Several minutes later, one officer is heard saying, “Is he breathing? If he’s got a pulse and he’s not breathing, he still needs rescue, bro. Get some air in him.” The medical staffer begins using a small bellows-type device to force air into Bronstein’s mouth. A couple minutes after that the staffer begins chest compressions, and officers are seen preparing a defibrillator when the video ends.

“In my opinion this is a murder by officers [and] they need to be held accountable,” said Michael Carrillo.

You can watch the video here (Warning: The footage is disturbing and may not be suitable for everyone).

The Carrillos are calling on L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón to “review and file criminal charges against the involved officers.” A spokesperson for the DA said Tuesday in an email that “the matter remains under review.”

The CHP did not comment, citing pending litigation. (A new California law requires the state attorney general to investigate all law enforcement killings of unarmed civilians, but it took effect July 2021 and only applies to cases that occurred after that date.)

“His screams, his face, them slapping him around, it will live in my head forever ... I wish my dad was here every day and there’s nothing that will take that away,” said Bronstein’s daughter Brianna Palomino. She’s one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

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 Edward Bronstein's father, Edward Tapia (L) and daughter Brianna Palomino (R) stand near where a press conference was held Tuesday. Tapia wears a grey suit and Palomino holds a framed picture of her father.
Edward Bronstein's father, Edward Tapia (L) and daughter Brianna Palomino (R)
(Robert Garrova
/
LAist)

Palomino said her father — who leaves behind five children — had a history of being deeply afraid of needles. She said he was always looking to help people, and was training to become an airplane mechanic.

The coroner’s report said the cause of death was “acute methamphetamine intoxication during restraint by law enforcement.” While noting that “a review of the circumstances and surveillance footage, indicate a temporal relationship between the restraint and cardiac arrest,” the report said "due to absence of autopsy findings of asphyxia or fatal trauma, and the presence of methamphetamine, the role of the restraint could not be definitively … assessed in contributing to death. Therefore the manner of death is undetermined.”

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